When Joel Embiid takes the floor for Game 5 against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, he may be wearing a different face mask.
Actually, as it turns out, he may not be wearing any mask at all.
Per CBS Philly’s Jon Johnson:
As a follow up to @howardeskin report – Per source, there is a chance of an alteration, or removal of mask for Joel Embiid in coming days.
Nothing definitive at moment, but a possibility.
— Jon Johnson (@jonjohnsonwip) May 8, 2018
This news comes while Embiid is struggling to maintain his offensive efficiency. He’s shooting under 43 percent from the floor in the second round, and he’s thrown up a couple airballs and turnovers that don’t really have an explanation behind them. Though he’s talked about how the mask impairs his vision, he’s thus far refused to blame it for the entirety of his warts.
As he told reporters before the Sixers’ Game 4 victory over Boston, per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato (via Yahoo):
“Everything I’ve been able to do in the series, I won’t put that on the mask,” Embiid said after practice Sunday as the Sixers trail 3-0. “It’s just on me.”
Allowing Embiid to play without a mask at all seems a little risky. They weren’t even sure they wanted him to return for the Miami Heat series when he did. Eliminating the protective mask altogether seems reckless when previous reports alleged Embiid could do permanent damage to his eye if he re-aggravates the injury he suffered toward the tail end of the regular season.
Indeed, it has to be frustrating for Embiid to struggle in and outside the post. And yes, the 3-1 series deficit won’t feel great either. But the Sixers are playing with found money. They weren’t supposed to win 52 games. They aren’t supposed to be here, in the second round, within three victories of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
Lofty expectations come later. For now, they have to be more concerned with the big picture, with the future. And Embiid is their future. If there’s even a tiny chance he could incur further damage to his eye, removing the protective mask should be completely out of the question.